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Health minister Norihisa Tamura speaks during a news conference on Friday. | KYODO
Health minister Norihisa Tamura speaks during a news conference on Friday. | KYODO

Most of the areas in Japan under a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic will reach a threshold that would allow the emergency to be lifted, if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fall, health minister Norihisa Tamura said Friday.

At a news conference, Tamura suggested that the central government is discussing the possibility of completely lifting the state of emergency currently covering Tokyo and 18 prefectures, which is set to expire on Thursday.

Noting that the weekly average of new coronavirus cases in the country has fallen about by half from the previous week, he indicated that the government will consult experts on the matter and reach a final decision after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga returns from his trip to the United States on Sunday.

“Obviously, we must also hear what prefectural governments have to say” on whether to switch to the pre-emergency designation from the state of emergency, Tamura said.

“We are watching closely how the current downward trend (in COVID-19 infections) will develop,” he added, suggesting that the government will make a careful decision while taking into consideration the hospital bed occupancy rate and the share of COVID-19 patients being admitted to hospital.

Meanwhile, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, at a separate news conference on Friday, revealed that 13 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Osaka and Okinawa, have expressed their intentions to take part in the central government’s trial run to ease restrictions on people’s activities, following progress in coronavirus vaccinations.

“We are currently working together with the prefectural governments and businesses, and will strive to strike a good balance between infection control measures and socioeconomic activities when vaccination rates go up to a certain level,” he said.

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